The Kitchen Shortcut Bible

More than 200 Recipes to Make Real Food Real Fast


By Bruce Weinstein

By Mark Scarbrough

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The ultimate collection of recipes to make real food, real fast — with hundreds of ways to cook smarter, not harder.

The Kitchen Shortcut Bible is for all of us who love to cook, but never seem to have enough time. Rather than a book of way-too-clever hacks, this is a collection of more than 200 ingenious recipes that supercharge your time in the kitchen without sacrificing high quality or fresh flavor.

Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough come to this, their definitive guide to shortcut cooking, after twenty-nine cookbooks and decades of experience in the kitchen. Not only do they know about putting great meals on the table, they also know that most people’s nightly question isn’t “what’s for dinner,” but “what’s for dinner in the next half hour?”

They’ve got risotto in minutes, no-fry chicken parm, and melted ice cream pound cake. But these recipes aren’t merely “semi-homemade.” They’ve also got slow cooker confits, no-boil stuffed cabbage, and a fine holiday turkey straight out of the freezer, as well as new ways to think about sheet pan suppers, Asian noodle dishes without a wok, and no-churn ice creams. And no MacGuyver-ing either! There are lots of new ways to use the kitchen tools you already own, imparting concrete shortcuts that save time and make something good into something great.

When dinner is a problem to be solved, this is your cheat sheet.



Let’s just get this out of the way up front:

Work with sharp knives.

Chop two onions, not one, and freeze the rest.

Cook once but eat twice, repurposing leftovers.

Start with a clean kitchen and clean as you cook.

Work with a garbage bowl on the counter.

You might be able to recite those in your sleep. All of these rules are tried-and-true advice for quick cooking, repeated in hundreds of books and on zillions of websites.

They’re not what this book is about. Instead, The Kitchen Shortcut Bible is about making the food you love—but preparing it faster, using common kitchen tools in ways you might not have imagined or working with standard ingredients that are long overdue for an updated approach. The book is also about rethinking recipes in unexpected ways: using the flavor punch of a jar of store-bought caponata for ratatouille, or the convenience of a package of wonton wrappers for crisp cookies, all while eating real food that’s healthy and inexpensive. What’s more, this cookbook is not about absurd gimmicks no one will ever use: making punch bowl ice rings in a Bundt pan or dicing hard-cooked eggs by passing them through a wire-mesh rack. Ever seen the mashed-up edges of that egg afterward? Ever tried to clean the rack? Blech.

In fact, this is a book of recipes, not hacks. Yes, there are plenty of tips and tricks throughout, some a little nerdy, some very cheffy. But it’s important to realize from the get-go that these inspirational flashes and real-world solutions have been made subservient to the recipes themselves. There’s no chapter called “More from Your Wok” or “Small Gadget Hacks.” Rather, the recipes are arranged in chapters about the way they are in most cookbooks: breakfast, snacks, bigger meals, desserts. In the end, we believe that the best shortcuts deliver dishes, condiments, sauces, and the like, not just clever cooking ideas: a flavorful, quick applesauce with a potato ricer, or a complex sauce that magically tastes as if you let it simmer all day just by adding a few tablespoons of peanut butter, or rich and irresistible pudding from your microwave when you need a mug full of instant comfort.

After making a few of these recipes, we hope you’ll adapt the techniques to make even more meals to fit your taste. Take our pasta colander suppers. You’ll put most of the ingredients in a colander and boil the pasta in a saucepan, then pour the pasta and its hot water over those ingredients, blanching or softening them and turning the whole thing into a no-mess, one-pot dinner. The variations you can create from this technique are endless.

But don’t jump out on your own at first. Some of these techniques are unconventional, so follow the recipe until you nail it down—then give it a twist. Such advice sounds schoolmarmish, but it’s a good strategy when you’re reinventing the layer cake (using just a food processor) or even preparing something as simple as bacon and eggs (using a single baking sheet).

Some recipes are one-offs. And some are presented in groups that show the many uses for a single kitchen tool, an unusual technique, or a too-often overlooked ingredient. Some recipes are designed to make weeknight fare (chicken cooked right out of the freezer) and some are admittedly fancier (a better way to roast a whole duck). Throughout, there are small, informal, narrative recipes tucked among the larger ones. All of our recipes show off a little Yankee ingenuity.

All this on-and-on about the recipes brings up a bigger question: What constitutes a shortcut? Well, sure, it should save time, that modern scarcity. If a new way through a classic recipe shaves off a few minutes, it counts—although this book is not just a book about cooking faster. We’ve also created shortcuts that simplify techniques to yield better results. Better without more effort isn’t the usual way quick-cooking books judge their results; but again, quick isn’t the only way to judge the value of a shortcut. If you veer off the crowded main road and take a back road through more beautiful countryside to arrive at the same place at the same time, you’ll probably take that smaller road again and again. And you’ll probably call it a shortcut, as in “that shortcut I take.” Its value is not just in time saved.

In no recipe will you MacGyver a set of pliers or carburetor cleaning wires into a kitchen wand. And you’ll never take apart a blender or break the hinge on a cherry pitter for a recipe. Instead, you’ll use tools as they are, all of them common cooking implements, many the familiar graduation and wedding gift favorites that sit on a shelf year after year.

Much of the work for this book gets done in the Test Kitchen Notes that accompany most of the recipes (or that are found in the introductory material to some recipe sets). There are hundreds of ideas on how to speed things up. Many of these can be applied to recipes far beyond the one at hand.

Admittedly, a few of our shortcuts are whimsical ta-da moments. For example, we figured out how to make fat, chewy udon noodles with a meat grinder. Our technique doesn’t really save you that much time (though it’s much quicker than the traditional Japanese method). But the results are so incredible, we had to include the recipe. The same goes for our way of doing a standing rib roast. And paella. These are not traditional shortcut cooking recipes but rather a sort of new way to think through a tried-and-true dish for better results without additional effort (and in the case of the paella, with far less effort).

But most of our recipes deliver in all the most important categories: time saved, convenience added, and most importantly, flavor enhanced. You’ll use instant potatoes for the fluffiest gnocchi and store-bought pizza dough for quick, delicious dumplings. You’ll make no-cook sauces in advance and freeze them in plastic bags for a slow-cooker weeknight dinner with almost no work. Just add your protein of choice to the cooker and head off to your day!

And there’s much more. Weeknight dinner solutions, all-day entrees finished in minutes, and plain delicious ways to make the dishes you love without standing over a hot stove. Like making individual dinner packets, freezing them, and cooking them straight from the freezer. Or using a slow cooker to turn tuna into the most absurdly delicious Sicilian preserved tuna without much work. Or making risotto in a microwave in mere minutes, without stirring.

So sure, follow the standard shortcut advice: Work with sharp knives, clean as you go, and set out a garbage bowl. But just get cooking. There’s time to be saved. Mostly, there are better meals to be eaten.

A Few Notes on Ingredients

Before you get started, there are a few ingredients used over and over that need a little explanation. All are pretty common; but with simple basics, the specifics matter.


You’ll need both table salt and kosher salt. Table salt has a slightly milder (some would say “flatter”) flavor, and it’s best in most of these dishes. Kosher salt offers mineral undertones and a nice crunch. It’s used to enhance flavors in some rubs or to garnish certain dishes.

Shredded Coconut

Shredded coconut is available either sweetened or unsweetened. Use whichever the recipe calls for (sometimes both). Unsweetened shredded coconut (often called “desiccated coconut”) can be found in a powdery or a flaked version. Either will work here, although you should crush the flakes in your hands to measure them properly. Sweetened shredded coconut, familiar in (or on) some holiday cookies, is usually available in the baking aisle; unsweetened shredded coconut is most often available in the health-food or organic section (and at almost all health-food stores).

Rice Vinegar

Seasoned rice vinegar has sugar (and sometimes aromatics) in the mix; unseasoned is just that: no sugar (or aromatics, but usually salt). Seasoned rice vinegar is sometimes labeled as such; unseasoned, rarely so. Maddeningly, both are sometimes just labeled “rice vinegar.” The recipes in this book only call for unseasoned rice vinegar, so read the ingredient panel to be sure there’s no sugar in the brand you choose.

Rolled Oats

These steamed-then-flattened oat flakes are the traditional oats used to make oatmeal. Our recipes mostly call for rolled oats. Do not substitute steel-cut or quick-cooking (so-called “instant”) oats unless they are specifically called for.


That’s the more formal name of the cheese commonly known as “Parmesan.” The name is used here to encourage you to skip the canned stuff, buy a block chipped from a larger wheel, and grate it with a Microplane or the small holes of a box grater. Lightly pack the grated cheese into measuring cups for the right volume amount. As a general rule, 2 ounces of Parmigiano-Reggiano yields 1 cup of lightly packed, finely grated cheese.

Fat-Free Dairy

Throughout, ingredient lines in the recipes indicate whether low-fat or fat-free dairy will work by including those very terms in the ingredient lists. Both 1% and 2% milk count as low-fat. Do not use fat-free dairy (milk, yogurt, cream cheese) if the recipe does not specifically call for it. Many fat-free products (like sour cream) include stabilizers that can react badly over the heat and leave your dish (at best) unappetizing.

One Note About Microwave Ovens

They cook in a broad range of power, based on their wattage, anywhere from 700 watts up to 1250 and beyond. A fairly standard microwave oven in North America cooks at 950 watts. However, it’s best to check the instruction manual for your model to know how your oven cooks when using our recipes. If you have a 1250-watt behemoth, you may want to cook at a slightly lower setting. And you’ll definitely want to carefully watch the food inside.

And Finally…

Throughout this book, you’ll find markers on the recipes to help you decide on the fly which is right for the moment—and which you might want to come back to at another time. Here’s what you’ll see:

FASTER. In general, these recipes shave minutes off the total time a more standard version of this recipe requires. Sometimes, we’ve bent the concept of “faster” to include a quicker prep time with the same cooking time the standard recipe would need.

EASIER. These recipes call for less work. But work itself is a broader notion than just time at the cutting board or the stove. “Easier” might also include fewer pots and pans, fewer tools and knives.

TASTIER. Not all shortcuts are about speed. Sometimes, a shortcut is about getting a better result with the same amount of effort you’d put into a more standard version of that recipe. For example, our recipe for a standing rib roast takes more time than most recipes but the effort is the same for unbelievable results.

VEGETARIAN. We’ve marked these recipes as call-outs to help make your selection easier. There’s currently a raging online debate about whether eggs can be considered part of a vegetarian diet. We’ve gone old-school (in our 50s, we are by definition old-school) and assumed they indeed can be.

GLUTEN-FREE. Recipes with this tag are gluten-free, provided you use a few standard ingredients that have been certified gluten-free. For example, oats are gluten-free in their natural state but are often processed in facilities that also process wheat and therefore can contain trace amounts of its dust. Look for certified gluten-free rolled oats if wheat gluten is indeed a concern. These can be found in most large supermarkets—and certainly in all health-food stores as well as from online purveyors. And the same can be said for soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Neither needs to contain wheat (although many, even most, standard preparations do). There are gluten-free variations of both available in almost all supermarkets and certainly from a wide range of online sources. All that said, even if a recipe is marked “gluten-free,” we’ll go ahead and remind you which of these sorts of ingredients to watch out for, just to make doubly sure we’re on the same page. And one more thing: Although most baking powder sold in the U.S. includes cornstarch or potato starch to absorb ambient moisture, some brands (particularly those from outside the U.S.) may use wheat to get the job done and must (again) be certified gluten-free to make sure you’re creating the recipe to fit your dietary needs.


There may be no meal in greater need of shortcuts. After all, morning hours are precious, even on the weekends. These recipes, tips, and tricks—including lots of things to do with that waffle iron sitting in your cabinet—can jump-start those early hours and get you to your day faster.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the standard pleas in favor of breakfast. Some studies show that people who eat it weigh less. Others indicate those who partake have better blood sugar numbers. Or even better memory. Those people probably have cleaner houses and balanced checkbooks, too.

But forget all that and think about pleasure. Breakfast is a meal to savor, even when you’re on the run, because the light will never look like this for the rest of the day, because the complications and irritations are mostly in the offing, and maybe because the newspaper won’t read itself.

Sure, time for breakfast is a luxury in this ever-and-ever-more modern world where everything is fast, faster, fastest. To push breakfast into high gear, there are internet memes about shredding cold butter onto toast through a box grater. Or storing pancake batter in an old ketchup bottle. Or preparing oatmeal in a drip coffee maker.

Frankly, none of that appeals to us. If saving time is the sole point, nobody would ever eat breakfast at home. Just stop off at the grocery store, a bodega, or even a donut shop on your way to work.

These breakfast recipes aren’t about magically adding minutes to your day. They’re about getting some extra time to spend it right. To that end, what could be better than a warm bowl of toasty granola? Or absurdly fast yet amazingly creamy scrambled eggs? How about a helping of steel-cut oats you don’t have to make when your eyes are barely open? Or even some pretty fine breakfast cookies that don’t require you to turn on the oven? For just a moment, forget the vaunted breakfast promise of better health, cleaner houses, and balanced checkbooks. Here’s to a few minutes of bliss before everything else starts in earnest.

The Creamiest, Lightest Scrambled Eggs in Under a Minute




Makes 2 servings

Basic scrambled eggs are easy and fast. But really good, super-creamy, custard-like scrambled eggs require 10, maybe 15 minutes of stirring over extremely low heat. The results are luxurious, even a revelation. But who has 15 minutes for two scrambled eggs? So we like this trick: Add a little cornstarch to beaten eggs. The thickener will bind natural moisture, rendering the eggs wonderfully creamy with little effort.

2 tablespoons whole, low-fat, or fat-free milk

1 tablespoon cornstarch

4 large eggs

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Table salt and ground black pepper, to taste

1. Whisk the milk and cornstarch in a medium bowl until smooth. Crack the eggs into the bowl and whisk again until smooth.

2. Melt the butter in an 8- or 10-inch nonstick skillet set over medium-high heat. Once melted and just beginning to brown at the edges, swirl the pan to coat the surface and reduce the heat to medium.

3. Pour the egg mixture all around the skillet, not just in one spot. Cook, stirring constantly with a heat-safe silicone spatula, until the eggs form large curds, about 30 seconds. Keep cooking until the eggs are set to your taste—wet and creamy or dry and chewy.

4. Divide between two serving plates and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Voilà! Poach eggs fast by pouring ⅔ cup water in a large microwave-safe ramekin and cracking a large egg into it. In a 950-watt microwave oven, cook on high for 35 to 50 seconds, until the egg is done to your desired firmness. Remove the egg from the water with a large, slotted spoon.


Although it’s a go-to shortcut breakfast, there are ways to make toast better—and to also save trips to the store.

First, use frozen, sliced bread. Don’t thaw it, especially not in the microwave. Put a slice or two in your toaster. You’ll need to experiment with the right settings for your model to hit your desired doneness, but you’ll end up with a crunchier breakfast every time. And isn’t that the point of toast?

After that, try these topping combos:

Tahini, blackberries, honey, and mint

Almond butter, hot red pepper sauce, and oregano

Cream cheese, halved cherry tomatoes, basil, and kosher salt

Mashed banana, walnut pieces, and grated nutmeg

Ricotta, walnut oil, table salt, and pepper

Mashed avocado, corn salsa or chow chow, and cilantro

Or slather it with some Shortcut Pumpkin Butter: In a medium saucepan, mix one 28-ounce can pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling), ½ cup maple syrup, ½ cup unsweetened apple juice, 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon apple pie spice blend. Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, then reduce the heat to very low and simmer slowly, stirring often, for about 20 minutes, until very thick and reduced to about 1½ cups. Pack the pumpkin butter into a glass or plastic container, seal, and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

No-Hassle Bacon and Eggs for a Crowd



Makes 8 servings

Ever tried to make fried eggs on the weekend? Ever stood at the stove for a really long time? Ever made your own breakfast when everyone else was already outside having fun? Here’s the simple solution: a sheet-pan breakfast of fried eggs. We like ours with a splash of vinegar, a little culinary extravagance that brings out the naturally sweet notes in the yolks. Have lots of buttered toast on hand.

12 ounces thinly sliced bacon

2 large green or red bell peppers, preferably tall ones (rather than squat)

8 large eggs

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Ground black pepper, to taste

1. Position the rack in the center of the oven; heat the oven to 400°F.

2. Lay the strips of bacon on a large lipped baking sheet. Bake until brown and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, slice off both the stem end and the bottom of each bell pepper. Use a paring knife to slice out the core and membranes inside each pepper tube. Evenly slice the cored peppers into eight ½-inch-thick rings (reserve the extras for salads or sandwiches).

4. Use kitchen tongs to transfer the cooked bacon to a serving platter. Set the pepper rings on the baking sheet in the bacon fat. Crack an egg into each ring.

5. Bake until the eggs are set to your desired degree, about 4 minutes for runny yolks, up to 6 minutes for harder set ones.

6. Remove the baking sheet from the oven, sprinkle the vinegar over the eggs (about ¼ teaspoon per egg), and sprinkle with pepper. Use a metal spatula to transfer the eggs in their rings to serving plates. Serve with the bacon.

Voilà! You can skip the bell pepper rings here and use mason jar rings on the baking sheet. In fact, you can use those rings anytime you want to make perfectly round fried eggs: Just set them lipped side down on the baking sheet (or in a skillet), then crack the eggs directly into them. If you do use the bell pepper rings as the recipe states, they should be as evenly cut as possible. Set them on a cutting board to make sure they don’t rock with uneven edges.

Fast, Warm, Comfy Granola




Makes 2 servings

Homemade granola can take more than an hour: toasting the grains, adding the mix-ins, baking it all, cooling it. But you can make a small batch in a skillet in minutes. Better yet, stir all the dry ingredients together the night before, then cover the bowl and leave it on the counter until morning.

1 cup rolled oats (certified gluten-free if that is a concern)

¼ cup sliced almonds

2 tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon table salt

Milk or yogurt for serving, optional

1. Stir the oats, almonds, coconut, maple syrup, oil, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl until the oats are evenly coated with the oil and spices.

2. Set a 10-inch nonstick skillet or large wok over medium heat for a minute or two.

3. Transfer the contents of the bowl to the skillet or wok. Cook, stirring often, until toasty and fragrant, 5 to 6 minutes. Serve warm on its own or topped with milk or yogurt if desired.


  • "We're huge fans of kitchen hacks that make it easy to eat real, good food, so when a new book, The Kitchen Shortcut Bible, came out covering just that, we were sold! ... You'll never look at sandwich bread and wonton wrappers the same again!"—Rachael Ray
  • "A refreshing and informative go-to book of time-saving recipes using common ingredients and tools for faster meals. Their tips and techniques are not gimmicky hacks focused on just cooking more efficiently, but instead are innovative shortcuts... Without skimping on quality, the authors enthusiastically help home cooks deliver fresh food fast."—Publishers Weekly
  • "So many surprising inspirations appear here that even jaded cooks may learn a thing or two."—Booklist

On Sale
Jun 19, 2018
Page Count
352 pages

Bruce Weinstein

About the Author

Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough are the bestselling authors of the Instant Pot Bible series of cookbooks, among more than 30 others. They are the owners of MediaEats, a culinary production company, were nominees for 2011 and 2015 James Beard Awards, won the 2015 IACP Award, and are the longest-serving columnists on, as well as regular contributors to the Washington Post, Fine Cooking, and Cooking Light.

Learn more about this author

Mark Scarbrough

About the Author

Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough are the bestselling authors of the Instant Pot Bible series of cookbooks, among more than 30 others. They are the owners of MediaEats, a culinary production company, were nominees for 2011 and 2015 James Beard Awards, won the 2015 IACP Award, and are the longest-serving columnists on, as well as regular contributors to the Washington Post, Fine Cooking, and Cooking Light.

Learn more about this author